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Dec 20

Classic Porn: That Boy

That Boy

Standing in his ball-hugging, low-slung jeans, with shirt open to reveal chiseled abs, Helmut (gay icon Peter Berlin) looks like an erotic god. When he bends to pick up a mirror that he finds lying in the grass, he is like Narcissus gazing at his own reflection, but without the tragic ending. Helmut goes for a stroll among blooming dogwood trees and is soon joined by another man who watches him masturbate. (Mirrors and voyeurism will be recurring themes throughout the film.) All of this is going on as the opening credits of “That Boy” roll and Pachelbel’s “Canon in D” plays.

The movie begins in earnest when Helmut strolls through San Francisco’s Castro District, where men and women – dressed like the Village People and the New York Dolls – stare at his impressive body in impossibly tight white pants. They chase him down the sidewalk, but Helmut is uninterested in any of them until he happens across a blind young man waiting at a street corner. He and this beautiful boy had encountered each other before an accident took the kid’s sight from him. Perhaps finally sensing this is one person who won’t chase or harass him for his body, he befriends the blind kid and forms a strong bond with him as they walk around the city. Of course, the blind kid still remembers Helmut’s godlike beauty and has fantasies.

In every scene, the blind kid fantasizes about a different person with Helmut. First, he daydreams that the photographer who takes pictures of Helmut on the sidewalk has an erotic photo shoot in a studio with him that includes random other men; Helmut teases all of them to the point of madness, never relieving their need. Next, as they walk past a health club, a man standing outside takes us into an interracial fantasy of the world’s most sexual workout, with plenty of oral and mutual masturbation leading into some wet action in the shower with an unknown third man. In the last scene, they pass a bar and the blind kid envisions a passerby getting to fuck Helmut in a kinky, beer-pouring ass-fuck surrounded by bikers and a guy who looks like he escaped from the cast of “Hair.”

Peter Berlin, a German photographer, model, and artist, was famous for cruising in self-made clothes that left almost nothing to the imagination. He took what he learned from collaborating on his first film, “Nights in Black Leather,” and wrote, directed, produced, and starred in “That Boy.” With these films, Berlin helped bring artistic legitimacy to gay erotic imagery. You will see a lot of Peter Berlin in Helmut, as the narcissism of Berlin’s work kept us from ever getting close enough to touch him – part of the foundation for the pedestal that we all built for him.

“That Boy” is a surreal daydream of an erotic film, not entirely experimental but far from a conventional fuck flick. A rare piece of sexual art, it resembles a Kenneth Anger film as much as anything else. As one of only two full-length films that Berlin ever made, “That Boy” is definitely a piece of essential viewing that will stimulate you in ways modern porn seldom even attempts. It is a classic in the fullest sense of the word.